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The Ethical Teachings of the Didache

We have been talking about the Didache on the blog, and it occurred to me that it might be useful to post part of its text, so readers can see what we’re talking about.  The book has several discrete parts: it begins with a discussion of the “two ways” – one that leads to life and one to death.  This is a set of ethical instructions for Christians.  As you’ll see, the author appears to have taken materials from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew and various other passages chiefly from Matthew and Luke; but he cites other ethical injunctions (some of them unusual) from other, unknown sources.

After the “two ways” comes a set of instructions about church life and ritual – for example, how to baptize and what prayers to say at the eucharist meal.  At the end comes a one-chapter “apocalyptic discourse” describing what will happen at the end of time.

Here is the opening discussion of the two ways; it is my own translation, which, in a later version, appeared in my edition of the Apostolic Fathers in the Loeb Classical Library, with Harvard University Press.

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Is the Didache One Document or Three?
What Is the Didache?



  1. Avatar
    SidDhartha1953  December 23, 2017

    I was surprised to see that the form of the Golden Rule is in the negative. I’ve read that the positive formulation in the SOTM may be original to Jesus. If the Didache used Matthew as a source, how does one account for that reversion?

  2. Avatar
    ancadudar@yahoo.com  March 12, 2018

    2 This then is the way of life. First, love the God who made you, and second, “love” your neighbor as yourself. And whatever you do not want to happen to you, do not do to another.
    11 And you who are slaves must be subject to your masters as to a replica of God, with respect and referential fear.
    12 Hate all hypocrisy…..

    Looks like number 2 does not apply to slaves! I can’t imagine someone would ever want to be enslaved and used for free labor, so why do it to your neighbour/brother? Hypocrisy much?

    7 But be meek, since the meek will inherit the earth.
    8 Be patient, merciful, innocent, gentle, and good, trembling at the words you have heard.
    9 Do not exalt yourself or become impertinent. You should not join forces with the high and mighty, but should associate with the upright and humble.

    Meanwhile, wives are considered inferior and have to submit to every order and whim of their husband. Ephs 5 even compares him to Christ’s Lordship due to husband’s superiority, wife has no autonomy of her own. So much for husbands practicing meekness and not exalting themselves, or not being high and mighty!

    There’s Christian logic for you!

  3. Avatar
    Zak1010  July 6, 2019

    Dr Ehrman,

    If Matthew was written around 80 AD, most of the Apostles were dead by then. The Didache was written by the Apostles much earlier. So is it fair to say that Matthew borrowed from the Didache and not the other way around ?
    Also, would it be fair to say that The Didache was written to refute or to correct Paul’s teachings. Hence, some of his letters like Galatians? ( therefore putting The Didache near the year of some of Paul’s letters 50 AD ish )

    • Bart
      Bart  July 7, 2019

      No the Didache does not claim to be written by the Apostles, and it certaily wa s not. At earliest it is around 100 CE, and may well already know the Gospel of Matthew”

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